Coronavirus in Scotland: First Covid-19 vaccine is 90% effective, trials say

The first Covid-19 vaccine made by Pfizer and BioNTech has been found to be 90 per cent effective, according to early trial data.

The first patient enrolled in Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine clinical trial at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore. (Courtesy of University of Maryland School of Medicine via AP, File)
The first patient enrolled in Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine clinical trial at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore. (Courtesy of University of Maryland School of Medicine via AP, File)

Manufacturers called it a “great day for humanity” as they announced a breakthrough which could make the vaccine available for use by the end of the year, if it passes further checks.

The declaration was made after the first independent analysis of any Covid vaccine in phase three trials – the final stage before commercial licensing.

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Downing Street welcomed the results from Pfizer’s vaccine tests as “promising” and said the UK will have procured 10 million doses by the end of the year to be given out if it is approved.

The analysis found 94 people who were given the vaccine were protected from Covid-19 seven days after the final dose.

The vaccine has been tested on 43,500 people in six countries, with no safety issues raised. Trials have taken place in the US, Germany, Brazil, South Africa and Turkey.

It is a two-dose vaccine, with two shots needed three weeks apart.

Chair of Pfizer Dr Albert Bourla said: “Today is a great day for science and humanity. The first set of results from our phase three Covid-19 vaccine trial provides the initial evidence of our vaccine’s ability to prevent Covid-19.

“We are reaching this critical milestone in our vaccine development programme at a time when the world needs it most with infection rates setting new records, hospitals nearing over-capacity and economies struggling to reopen.

“With today’s news, we are a significant step closer to providing people around the world with a much-needed breakthrough to help bring an end to this global health crisis. We look forward to sharing additional efficacy and safety data generated from thousands of participants in the coming weeks.

No vaccine can be 100 per cent effective, but these results outstrip the FDA approval threshold for a Covid-19 vaccine, which is 50 per cent.

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Ian Jones, professor of virology at the University of Reading, said the Pfizer trial data shows “really impressive protection and no reported adverse events”.

He said: “Of all the current vaccines currently in development the BioNtech product always looked like the most bang-per-buck as it is entirely focused on the part of the virus that binds to the human cell, the receptor binding domain.

“The questions around its use were about the ability to manufacture at scale and the possible toxicity associated with a directly injected RNA product.

“The trial data show excellent results in both of those areas, really impressive protection and no reported adverse events.

“The only things we will not know for some time is the longevity of the response in all age groups, but assuming antibody titres are high that should be at least as good as any other vaccine currently in trial.”

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The results are promising and while we are optimistic of a breakthrough, we must remember there are no guarantees.

“We will know whether the vaccine is both safe and effective once the safety data has been published and only then can licensing authorities consider making it available to the public.

“In the meantime, the NHS stands ready to begin a vaccination programme for those most at risk once a Covid-19 vaccine is available before being rolled out more widely.

“In total, we’ve procured 40 million doses of the Pfizer candidate vaccine, with 10 million of those doses being manufactured and available to the UK by the end of the year if the vaccine is approved by the regulators.”

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